As we approach the high of summer, flowers are beginning to bloom––and with flowers come insects.
We’ve all experienced a painful bug-bite or two, but which critters should you really avoid this summer?
Entomologist Justin Schmidt was willingly stung with 85 insects to create the Schmidt Pain Scale, used to rate the pain of insect stings.
The scale ranks from one to four, with one being the least painful and four the most.
Here are 15 of the most painful insect stings in existence…
1. Red Fire Ant
Red Fire Ants were introduced into Alabama from South America in the 1970s. The ant is generally considered a pest because of the large soil mounds it creates with its nests.
These nasty bugs are only one to five millimetres long, so it’s worth keeping an eye out to avoid a nasty bite.
Their bites fall at a number 1 on the Schmidt Pain Scale, with the Natural History Museum comparing their bites are “sharp, sudden, mildly alarming,” and are “like walking across a shag carpet and reaching for the light switch.”
2. Tropical Fire Ant
The Tropical Fire Ant is much like it’s Red Fire Ant cousin, except it’s 3-8mm in length, and is an orange-brown color.
The Tropical Fire Ant doesn’t build mount of soil for their nests but spreads dirt around the entrance to its nest.
A sting from a Tropical Fire Ant falls at a number 1 on the Schmidt pain scale. According to the Natural History Museum, it’s sting is similar to the Red Fire Ant in feeling and severity.
3. Southern Fire Ant
The Southern Fire Ant is next on the list, and is 3-6mm in length. The ant has an amber-colored head and a darker abdomen.
It’s given a 1 on the Schmidt Pain Scale, and Schmidt described it like as extremely similar in pain to the Red Fire Ant, and the Tropical Fire Ant.
4. Paper Wasp
Paper Wasps build their nests from wood fibre, which they collect from plants. The wood fibre is chewed up by the wasps, to form a paper-like substance.
These wasps are small in size, only 0.5 to 1.5 inches long, and can be a range of colors.
According to the Schmidt scale, their sting falls at a 1.5 on the scale, and feels like a “burning, throbbing, and lonely” sensation. Apparently, the sting feels like “a single drop of frying oil landed on your arm.”
5. Suturing Army Ant
The Suturing Army Ant is so named because they are used to suture wounds in rural areas.
The ant has long, sharp pincers, which can be used to pierce through the two sides of the wound. The ant’s body is then removed and the head is left in place until the wound has fully healed.
Despite their unconventional uses, the Suturing Army Ant does have a painful bite, and scores a 1.5 on the Schmidt scale. Schmidt describes the ant’s sting as like “a cut on your elbow, stitched with a rusty needle.”
6. Giant Ant
The Giant Ant is nightmarishly big, and can be over 1.5 inches in length. The species are only found in South America, in countries such as Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Guyana, and Bolivia.
The pain of their sting can reportedly last for up to 48 hours. The sting rates as a 1.5 on the Schmidt scale and is a “pulsing sting with some flavour.” It feels like you “stepped into a salt bath with an open wound.”
7. Bulldog Ant
The Bulldog Ant is native to Australia. They are large and can grow up to an incredible 4cm long. They have huge eyes, and their sting is venomous.
The ants are found throughout Australia but mainly stick to urban areas.
Their sting rates as a 1.5 on the Schmidt scale and is an “intense, ripping, and sharp” sensation.
8. Glorious Velvet Ant
While this ant has a delightful name, don’t be fooled––its sting is extremely painful.
It’s also not an ant, but a wingless wasp. It’s got hairs all over its body, making it look fluffy in appearance. This gives it it’s ‘velvet’ appearance, although some call the creature a ‘Thistledown Velvet Ant’, instead.
Its sting falls at a number 2 on the Schmidt Pain Scale, is described as feeling similar to shrapnel, and comes with the surprise of being stabbed.
9. Large Tropical Black Ant or Hairy Panther Ant
The Large Tropical Black Ant, or Hairy Panther Ant, is found Mexico and southern Texas and is one of the largest ants on the continent.
The ant is covered in thin hairs, giving it the name “Hairy Panther”. They can grow to be 1-2cm long, and can be golden, brown, or black in color.
Their sting is rated as a 2 on the Schmidt scale and is described as “exquisitely sharp and expertly clean” in feeling on the scale.
10. Western Yellow Jacket Wasp
Western Yellow Jacket wasps are known for their distinctive black and yellow stripes––they are similar to bees in appearance and are often mistaken for them.
They are known to swarm and can sting multiple times. Their sting scores a 2 on the Schmidt pain scale, with their sting being compared to “W.C. Fields extinguishing a cigar on your tongue.”
11. Western Honey Bee
One single colony of Western Honey Bees can contain anywhere from 30,000 to 80,000 bees, with a queen, drone bees, and workers.
These bees are native to Europe, western Asia, and Africa––but they have now been introduced to every continent apart from Antarctica.
Their sting scores a 2 on the Schmidt Pain Scale, and their sting is described as “burning, corrosive” but manageable. It’s like a “flaming match head lands on your arm and is quenched with lye and then with sulphuric acid.”
12. Trap-jaw Ant
The Trap-jaw Ant lives in Central and South America and has the fastest snapping jaws on the planet.
Scientists measured its jaw speed using high-speed video techniques and found that its mandibles move at 115 to 207 feet per second.
Their sting scores a 2.5 on the Schmidt scale and “instantaneous and excruciating”. The sting is like “a rat trap” that “snaps on your index fingernail”.
13. Warrior Wasp
Some think this Wasp’s sting is the most painful in the world. Warrior Wasps are known for their aggressive behavior and the pain of their sting can last for 2 hours.
When threatened, this type of wasp flaps their wings in a percussive manner, which reportedly sounds like marching soldiers.
The sting scores a 4 on the Schmidt pain scale, and is “torture”. It’s like being “chained in the flow of an active volcano.”
14. Bullet Ant
Native to Central and South America, the Bullet Ant is named for it’s sting, which is apparently like being shot.
The ants can grow up to 1.2 inches in length and lives in tropical rainforests. They build their colonies at the base of trees in order for them to forage in the canopy.
Their sting scores a 4 on the Schmidt pain scale and is a “pure, intense, brilliant pain”. It feels “like walking over flaming charcoal with a 3-inch nail embedded in your heel.”
15. Tarantula Hawk Wasp
These monstrous creatures can reach up to 11cm in length and live across North and South America.
The wasps are named after their tendency to hunt tarantulas––which apparently seldom get away from these beasts.
Their sting, unsurprisingly, scores a 4 on the Schmidt Pain Scale, and is “blinding, fierce, shockingly electric”. It feels like “a running hair dryer has just been dropped into your bubble bath.”